We have been on the road in India and visiting quite some touristy places. We are visiting one of our properties in Kasauli and bumped into Venkat Matoory, who is a well known entrepreneur. Venkat interestingly is being doing something that we have been kind of encouraging lot of our travelers to do – which is to take life a little easy. He is spending, I think, a year in Kasauli.
Excerpts of the interview…
Roshan: So Venkat give us a little background about yourself.
Venkat: Briefly about me, I have been a management consultant most of my 17-year old career and I have been advising companies on various issues. About five or six years back took a break from the standard corporate structure. Have been spending a lot of time in the non-profit space, trying to set up institutions, especially focused on education; also spent some time trying to set up enterprises in the food business. Continue to work in the same space but to a limited extent. I guess all these things have definitely given a huge amount of satisfaction, they definitely give you a sense of selfworth, but then you reach a point when you realize that these are not a way to describe oneself or the country of which you are a part of. I had the opportunity to live in this country across its length and breadth. I have visited almost 70 small and large places in the country. I also had the opportunity to go across the world, have spent plenty of time in the US, Japan, Australia for work mostly and of course South East Asia and I was not quite aware that India could offer so much incredible experiences till such time I started exploring. See even the city life was getting a little sappy – it was offering a lot of satisfaction but then it was not holistic after a point of time. A series of experiences and interactions culminated in a recent trip to Ladakh in June. We drove down to Leh and Ladakh and back to Delhi in 10 days. I tend to drive a lot. When I saw the mountains and the living there, I thought can I be here for a longer time. That’s when I started exploring an interim location, which is a hill station and which will also help be attend to my professional responsibilities, essentially does not necessitate me to be in a city. I started exploring different locations, some of which I have been to before and finally thought Kasauli could be a great idea. I have been in this place for more than 3 and half months…
Roshan: And the intention is to be here for a year?
Venkat: Intention is to be here at least for a year and if all things go well will extend it.
Roshan: How did you pick Kasauli of all places?
Venkat: I started off with the places I knew. I used to visit Mukteshwar for different set of reasons. Being a professional healer, Mukteshwar is a place where I spend substantial time developing my healing abilities. Mukteswar was also on my list since I knew the property there and the person who owns the property. The owner was passionate about the property. One of the reason…criteria for picking up a property is somebody has to have the heart in managing the property. There were other properties which were more like a hotel. I did like Mukteshwar, yet there were logistics issues such as connectivity – relevant for me for I can’t completely stay away from my professional responsibilities. So it started off from there and explored other places like Manali, Mussourie and then a friend recommended Kasauli to me. I wasn’t aware of Kasauli as a destination. Got a few properties. The owner of this property is much more responsive, so decided to come over and visit this place. Liked the place. It’s an easy going place not though for one who is more activity prone. The rest then is history.
Roshan: Tell us a little about Kasauli as a place. You have mentioned it is not a place for the activity prone, but except from the scenic beauty what’s there in the city like things to do, places to eat…simple things, but for people who want to stay for a longer period what they should expect?
Venkat: What they can expect definitely is the opportunity to stay very close to nature. This is an incredible place to see birds from a very close quarters. There is a wide range of birds you see here. I’m trying to brush up my knowledge of birds since a month now. It is a photographer’s delight. This is an absolutely awesome place to be in the monsoons. You have to see the scenery here to believe what an incredible place this is. Maybe you can take a look of some of the photographs I had taken during the monsoons. Given the fact that I’m a healer, I have different bent to these kinds of places. I believe that this place has a very good energy. And though you don’t really have to understand those things, you will definitely get a feel of it. And of course you will see a lot of people in the weekends and holidays, but on weekdays the place is almost like your private garden. If you love walking, this is an awesome place. There are specific trails of which not many people are aware of – trails that provide views of the nearby cities and the mountains which you will not get anywhere else…
Roshan: You were saying before we started the interview that one can enjoy the view of the Chandigarh city from here…
Venkat: Yeah, that’s right, that’s right.
Roshan: And Venkat what about the connectivity? Like you said for people who want to take a longer break they need to be connected to the real world. What about regular connectivity?
Venkat: In fact that is where Kasauli scores very well. The Chandigarh-Delhi highway is close by. Compared to other hill stations, Kasauli is very well connected and the nearest airport is barely one and half hour’s drive. In terms of other connectivity like transaction connectivity, internet connectivity, telephone connectivity Kasauli is a very good place. So you don’t need to struggle. It gives you the good blend of the present day conveniences plus the fact that you can live an easy going life.
Roshan: Venkat may be I would say one of the pioneers who can encourage people to take longer vacation. So who you recommend to take these kinds of longer breaks?
Venkat: I would recommend people who are typically in their late 30s to mid 40s; Kasauli is definitely good place for the retired. But then again I would still recommend this place to folks who have completed or experienced the whole nine yards of heavy duty fast paced professional or corporate life, but still may not want to be cut off from responsibilities completely. The place is suited for those who don’t want to detach themselves from their professional responsibilities at the same time want some time for themselves.
Roshan: And tell me this…I keep asking this question whenever I meet people who live in some of these touristy places. There seems to be an overall boom of real estate in all parts of the touristy world. So what is your take on this? What is happening in the real estate sector here?
Venkat: Well lot of interest. It is all a derived aspect on how much interest people take in visiting this place. Definitely there is a lot of financial sense and economic sense in being in this place for it’s on the radar of lot of people due to its proximity to a major airport and major towns. Accessibility definitely makes people visit Kasauli and if people are visiting then there is definitely money to make! And that money that is there to make does translate to good returns investments in real estate. That said one needs to maintain a balance. Beyond a point excessive investment view would damage the charm of this place. There real charm of this place is its peace and the peace of this place is being maintained because of its moderate growth.
Roshan: So Venkat what will you recommend in terms of places to eat, drink or spend some time in the evenings?
Venkat: On the drinks part I’m definitely not the best advisor, because I’m a teetotaler. I’m sure there are many places where people can enjoy a good bout of drinking. Kasuali is not particularly a foodie’s delight, but there are still good eating joints. You should definitely experience the flavors of this place. There are two three eating joints where you would get tremendous satisfaction on the food part, though a little short on ambience. But definitely you will get good quality food. You could even walk across to Ross Common Villa. It’s a pretty old property and the ambience there encourages you to spend some time. You get good coffee at Café Rudra, run by mavericks very passionate with their gig. You can actually enjoy some Bob Marley music and drink coffee from a traditional kullar. But then don’t visit Kasauli for the food, visit Kasauli for the ambience.
Roshan: So Venkat where next? After you do a year here what’s in your radar screen?
Venkat: Let’s see. Hopefully will raise the altitude. Will probably go to 12000 feet.
Roshan: Nice meeting you Venkat. It was a pleasure to speak to you.